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Greek government’s vehicle-leasing plan March 17, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy, Transport Air Sea Land.
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The Greek government expects to save millions of euros by selling its current fleet of vehicles, and replacing it with a new fleet under leasing contracts.

Finance Ministry officials are to follow the lead of Parliament, which has introduced a program under which MPs have already been given leased cars. A scheme for the replacement of conventional technology cars with new, greener vehicles has been worked out by Economy and Finance Deputy Minister Nikolaos Legas.

The move is envisaged to cut excessive state spending, i.e. wasted tax-payers’ money, on maintenance and fuel, as well as on certain “costly irregularities.” Interestingly, the 2008 state budget earmarks 8.8 million euro under the heading of maintenance and repair of state-use land transport means, in addition to 35.4 million for procurement of spare parts. The above amounts do not include insurance outlays.

Rather more complicated is the issue of police car insurance, on account of the special specifications and use of such vehicles under tough conditions. Car companies offering such leasing solutions would also help the state save on service and maintenance, tires, insurance premiums and road tax. For spare parts alone, the Greek police currently spend an annual 11.5 million.

Some special-purpose army vehicles and fire-engines are to be excluded from the leasing solution. The existing state fleet is to be auctioned by the Public Property Management Organization (ODDY). Ministry officials say that the leasing solution would also help cut fuel and lubricant costs, currently standing at 225 million annually.

Finance Ministry inspection services have also found extensive unlawful use of state fuel, estimated to be costing the state some 60 million each year. To prevent state fuel from being unlawfully pumped into private vehicles, the Ministry plans to install pump nozzles of a different size that will not fit in the tanks of private cars. Officials say this would make it impossible for private vehicles to be supplied with fuel from state stations.

European countries have also been facing similar problems with fuel misappropriation, but have recently managed to cut the phenomenon by as much as 30 percent. How? Simply by utilizing advanced technology. In Greece, too, special microchips are to be placed not only in pump nozzles but also in the gas tanks of state vehicles, in an effort to curb the unlawful supply of private vehicles with state fuel and keep track of the fuel used by state vehicles.

Greece’s OTE selects Ericsson for IPTV project March 13, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Media Radio TV, Technology, Telecoms.
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Ericsson has been selected to act as end-to-end IPTV systems integrator, solution provider and business consultant for tier one Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE SA).

The integrated IPTV solution for OTE comprises of headend systems from Tandberg Television, part of the Ericsson group, middleware application, content distribution platform and a customized and flexible consumer portal. The solution will also involve complete implementation and integration of tools for operational management.

Ericsson was chosen for its proven ability to deliver a complete IPTV solution that meets the market demands. The IPTV solution will enable OTE to offer new and sophisticated services to its consumers. The initial offer will include a wide variety of broadcast channels, video on demand, electronic program guide, and personal video recorder capabilities.

Ericsson offers an end-to-end IPTV solution consisting of IPTV middleware, video on demand, network-based PVR, IPTV headends, content protection, IPTV infrastructure, systems integration and IPTV applications such as games. Ericsson has to date signed more than 180 IPTV contracts. Those include commercial contracts, trials, IPTV System Integration projects, IPTV headend contracts and IPTV infrastructure contracts for access, metro transport and IP Edge.

Ericsson is the world’s leading provider of technology and services to telecom operators. The market leader in 2G and 3G mobile technologies, Ericsson supplies communications services and manages networks that serve more than 185 million subscribers. The company’s portfolio comprises mobile and fixed network infrastructure, and broadband and multimedia solutions for operators, enterprises and developers. The Sony Ericsson joint venture provides consumers with feature-rich personal mobile devices. 

Greek Parliament awards software contract February 26, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Internet & Web, Technology.
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Greece’s Parliament awarded Globo PLC a one year contract, valued at 622,000 euros, to provide specialised software, services and equipment to digitalise and document newspapers, maps, books and other documents for the Parliament’s Library.

Globo said the contract is part of a 1.7 million euros project with the Greek Parliament and said it will provide the services along with its partners, Greece’s Info-Quest SA and AMS.

Solar power sector looks set to shine February 25, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Energy, Technology.
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Solar power sector looks set to shine despite financing difficulties from credit crunch > Demand from institutional investors for large-scale renewable portfolios remains strong, now reaching into new markets, such as Greece. 

Solar power will be a bright investment prospect, as the appetite for green energy grows, even though the global credit crisis is making banks more wary of providing financing. In the short term, the sector will also have to contend with a shortage of silicon, a key ingredient for solar cells that turn sunlight into electricity, and possible changes in political support as elections take place.

“This year will be a very volatile one,” said Sven Hansen, chief investment officer at clean technology investor Good Energies, which has about 7 billion Swiss francs ($6.38 billion) under management. “The industry will see fantastic growth, but it will be a bumpy ride in terms of how financial markets value photovoltaic companies.”

The number of new large-scale solar energy plants has been growing rapidly particularly in sun-drenched countries like Spain and Italy, but also in Germany and the United States, where regulatory conditions offer incentives and stable returns for investors. Conditions could change because of a presidential election in the United States and general elections in Spain in March. “Whether there are support programs in place has a strong impact on markets’ development,” Hansen said.

Growth is still expected to be strong, driven by increased interest from institutional investors, such as pension funds and insurers, which are seeking alternative stable and long-term opportunities. Experts also expect the silicon shortage to ease next year as silicon makers hike up capacity and production.

“Leverage ratios are more difficult, but we will ride out the storm. The business is not shut,” said Peter van Egmond Rossbach, director of investment at Impax Asset Management. The firm provides finance for renewable energy projects around the world and has $2 billion under management. Thirty percent is invested in solar, 40 percent in wind and the rest in other renewable energy projects, it said. “It just means that (project financing) is getting more expensive and we have to bridge with equity,” he added.

Tighter liquidity on global financial markets resulting from a crisis in the US subprime mortgage market last year has made banks more risk-averse. As a result, conditions have become tougher, pushing up interest payments for loans and other financing costs, which reduces the cashflow and leads to higher purchase prices for investors.

“We notice it in the purchase prices,” said Barbara Flesche, head of equity sales at Epuron, a project developer, which is fully owned by German solar group Conergy. Epuron develops, finances, develops and operates large-scale renewable energy projects, bringing together investors, banks and equipment producers. It has completed deals worth about 800 million euro ($1.18 billion) since 1998, it said.

Banks were less willing to provide high gearing for such major projects, which dampened investor hopes of a higher return on equity, Flesche said. But she added, “The risk for purchase prices is not something that’s hurting us dramatically – so far.”

Flesche said demand from institutional investors for such large-scale renewable portfolios was still strong and was now also reaching into new markets, such as Greece or Italy. “It will become more difficult to get bank financing, but not impossible,” Epuron’s Flesche said.

The European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) expects the global market to be five times bigger than it was in 2007 within the next five years. It said it expected annual installations to reach a 10.9-gigawatt peak by 2012 globally, up from a peak of about 2.2 gigawatts in 2007, adding that annual growth rates of well above 25 percent could be expected.

The European Energy Council has forecast that by 2010 about 1.6 percent of total energy generation will derive from photovoltaic sources, which compares to a share of 0.01 percent in 2003. By 2010 the council expects about 19 percent of generation will derive from renewables, 15 percent from nuclear and 66 percent from fossil sources.

Greece’s Intracom to build wireless telecom network in Syria February 8, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy, Telecoms.
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Syria and a Greece’s Intracom yesterday signed an agreement under which the Greeks would build a backup wireless telecommunications network for usage if the country’s telecommunication system stops functioning, reported the state-run SANA news agency.

The agreement between the Syrian government and Greece’s Intracom Holdings was signed in Damascus by a representative of the Greek Foreign Ministry and Syria’s Communications Minister Imad Abdul-Ghani Sabbouni. SANA said the project, which will cost 40 million euros, will take 22 months to build. Under the contract, Intracom will build a “national wireless network that provides public institutions with emergency and disaster communications and a substitute communication, in case land and cellular telecommunication stop functioning.”

Intracom Holdings is one of Southeastern Europe’s largest technology groups, with operations in 19 countries.

Greece’s five-year Internet catch-up plan February 6, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Internet & Web, Telecoms.
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Greece plans to spend 3 billion euro ($4.4 billion) over the next five years to catch up with other European Union countries in the usage of high-speed Internet and new technologies.

About 2.5 billion euro will be spent to create a fiberoptic network that will give at least 2 million Greek homes access to broadband services, according to an e-mailed transcript of a speech yesterday by Transport and Communications Minister Costis Hatzidakis.

“New communications technologies mean innovation, competitiveness, growth, quality of life,” Hatzidakis said. “Greece has been a laggard in the use of new technologies. It is now in our grasp to move forward.”

Greece has consistently trailed behind its European Union partners in broadband usage, hobbling foreign investment and competitiveness. Greek broadband penetration rose from 0.1 percent in 2003 to 7.1 percent in 2007, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. That still lags the average of 18.8 percent for OECD countries, and places Greece behind new European Union member states such as Poland and Hungary.

The Greek broadband gap has been blamed on high prices for personal computers and Web connections and the lack of Internet and PC education in schools. Successive governments have also failed to make Internet usage relevant to the wider public. In May 2006, European Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding said Greece trailed Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Croatia and Egypt in providing government services over the Internet.

Financing for the plans will come from the Greek budget, European Union resources and the private sector, Hatzidakis said, without providing details. Building the new infrastructure will aid Greece’s ambitions to be an international communications hub, he said.

Greece’s geographic position may enable it to be a data transport point between Europe and the Middle East and Asia.

Greek firms progress slowly in IT investment November 9, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy, Internet & Web, Telecoms.
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Greek firms have only slightly increased their spending on telecoms and information technology this year compared to 2006, according to a survey prepared by the Information Society Monitor.

The study, conducted on 1,600 companies in 10 different sectors, found that 57.9 percent of them invested up to 5 percent of their budgets on IT and telecoms.

Based on data presented at the CEO Forum of the Digital Technology Expo, the Information Society Monitor (ISM) estimates that despite the small rise in spending on IT this year, the intended investment of Greek firms in such technologies in coming years appears to be above trends elsewhere in Europe. This is considered an indication that IT investment in Greece lags compared to the rest of Europe and there is more room for growth.

In line with their European peers, the Greek firms themselves said investment in IT was beneficial in terms of both efficiency and customer service. “Nevertheless,” said ISM President Nikos Christodoulou, “it has to be noted that the most important reasons for the non-utilization of IT is the small size of firms and the perception that new technologies are costly.”

ISM data showed that there has been an increase in employment of people with skills in the IT and telecoms specializations. Additionally, about one in two firms employs such specialized personel, with printing and publishing performing best and tourism lagging in relation to the other sectors of the economy.

It is also worth noting that Greek firms do not seem to be anxious to invest in upgrading the skills of their staff, as only 27.5 percent pay for them to attend training seminars.